Technology improvements in Toilets

[tweetmeme] The Japanese are known for the innovations in daily life that they have been well weird to the rest of the world, nevertheless they are more than just innovations, they are good use of engineering concepts. The practicality of these devices is something of a debate. The current state of the art for Western-style toilets is the bidet toilet, which, as of 2009, is installed in 69% of Japanese households. In Japan, these bidets are commonly called washlets, a brand name of Toto Ltd., and include many advanced features rarely seen outside of Asia. The feature set commonly found on washlets are ass washing, bidet washing, seat warming, and deodorization. Yes these information exist on the toilets. Lets look at some more features in detail :

The Toto product Washlet Zoe is listed in Guinness World Records as the world’s most sophisticated toilet with seven functions. However, as the model was introduced in 1997, it is now likely to be inferior to the latest model by Toto Neorest. As of 2002, almost half of all private homes in Japan have such a toilet, exceeding the number of households with a personal computer. Check out the features as mentioned in Wikipedia, almost hilariously interesting.

Basic features

The most basic feature is the integrated bidet, a nozzle the size of a pencil that comes out from underneath the toilet seat and squirts water. It has two settings: one for washing the ass and one for the bidet. The former is called posterior wash, general use, or family cleaning, and the latter is known as feminine cleaning, feminine wash or simply bidet. At no point does the nozzle actually touch the body of the user. The nozzle is also self-cleaning and cleans itself before and after operation. The user can select to wash the ass or vulva by pressing the corresponding button on the control panel. Usually the same nozzle is used for both operations, but at a different position of the nozzle head, and using different openings in the nozzle to squirt water at a different angle to aim for the correct spot. Occasionally, two nozzles are used, each dedicated for one area. The control logic is also attached to a pressure switch in the toilet seat, and operates only if there is pressure on the seat, indicating that the seat is occupied. The very first models did not include this automatic switch-off. A number of curious users pressed the button while watching the toilet to see its mode of operation, and promptly received a jet of warm water in their face.

Customization

Most high-tech toilets allow water temperature and water pressure to be adjusted to match the preferences of the user. Researchers in Japan have found that most users prefer a water temperature slightly above body temperature, with 38 °C considered optimal. The nozzle position can also often be manually adjusted forward or aft. High-end washlets allow selection of vibrating and pulsating jets of water, claimed by manufacturers to be beneficial for constipation and hemorrhoids. The most advanced washlets can mix the water jet with soap for an improved cleaning process.

The washlet can replace toilet paper completely, but many users opt to use both wash and paper in combination—although use of paper may be omitted for cleaning of the vulva. Some wipe before washing, some wash before wiping, some wash only, and some wipe only—each according to his/her taste. Another frequent feature is a blow drier, often adjustable between 40°C and 60°C, used to dry the washed areas. (tell me you are not yet laughing)

Advanced features (The more Interesting Bits)

Other features may include a heated seat, which may be adjustable from 30°C to 40°C; an automatic lid equipped with a proximity sensor, which opens and closes based on the location of the user. Some play music to relax the user’s sphincter. Other features are automatic flushing, automatic air deodorizing, and a germ-resistant surface. Some models specially designed for the elderly may include armrests and devices that help the user to stand back up after use. A soft close feature slows the toilet lid down while closing so the lid does not slam onto the seat, or in some models, the toilet lid will close automatically a certain time after flushing. The most recent introduction is the ozone deodorant system that can quickly eliminate smells. Also, the latest models store the times when the toilet is used and have a power-saving mode that warms the toilet seat only during times when the toilet is likely to be used based on historic usage patterns. Some toilets also glow in the dark or may even have air conditioning below the rim for hot summer days. Another recent innovation is intelligent sensors that detect someone standing in front of the toilet and initiate an automatic raising of the lid (if the person is facing away from the toilet) or the lid and seat together (if someone is facing the toilet). [Can
you imagine all that 🙂 ]

Text explaining the controls of these toilets tends to be in Japanese only. Although many of the buttons often have pictograms, the flush button is often written only in Kanji, meaning that users who are not well versed in the Japanese writing system may be unable to flush the toilet except through random button pressing. Thus, despite the many advanced features, the toilet is unusable for some foreigners.

Future developments

Recently, researchers have added medical sensors into these toilets, which can measure the blood sugar based on the urine, and also measure the pulse, blood pressure, and the body fat content of the user. Talking toilets that greet the user have also started being made. Other measurements are currently being researched. The data may automatically be sent to a doctor through a built-in internet-capable phone. However, these devices are still very rare in Japan, and their future commercial success is difficult to predict. A voice-operated toilet that understands verbal commands is under development. TOTO, NAIS, and other companies also produce portable, battery-operated travel washlets, which must be filled with warm water before use.

The seat-heating feature is very common, found even on toilets that lack the bidet features. Often this is stated as an example of unnecessary use of technology, but as most Japanese homes lack central heating, the bathroom may be only a few degrees above freezing in the winter, and a prewarmed seat may not seem so frivolous.

Many Japanese women are embarrassed at the thought of being heard by others during urination. To cover the sound of bodily functions, many women flushed public toilets continuously while using them, wasting a large amount of water in the process. As education campaigns did not stop this practice, a device was introduced in the 1980s that, after activation, produces the sound of flushing water without the need for actual flushing. A Toto brand name commonly found is the Otohime (Sound Princess). This device is now routinely placed in most new public women’s rooms, and many older public women’s rooms have been upgraded.The Otohime may be either a separate battery-operated device attached to the wall of the toilet, or included in an existing washlet. The device is activated by pressing a button, or by the wave of a hand in front of a motion sensor. When activated, the device creates a loud flushing sound similar to a toilet being flushed. This sound either stops after a preset time or can be halted through a second press on the button. It is estimated that this saves up to 20 liters of water per use. However, some women believe that the Otohime sounds artificial and prefer to use a continuous flushing of the toilet instead of the recorded flush of the Otohime. [Hand on face]

No matter what, this makes for interesting improvements in engineering and the future (by this time I am finding it difficult to type, cos I am laughing on the floor). Anyway some examples of the pics can be seen here .

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    • Raj Bhat
    • March 19th, 2010

    Only you can think about this. –Bhatta

      • misterjester
      • March 19th, 2010

      Technology is technology dude 🙂 lol

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